Democratic U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was promoted from captain to major in the Hawaii Army National Guard on Monday morning in a ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

She was joined by her family, friends, and fellow service members and veterans. Former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka led her in reciting the oath of office. She served as a legislative aide to Akaka early in her career.

Gabbard joined the National Guard in 2003. A year later, she volunteered to serve in the war in Iraq and gave up her position in the state Legislature. She continues to serve with the Guard’s 29th Brigade Combat Team.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard embraces Senator Daniel Akaka after oath portion of promotion ceremonies at the National Memorial of the Pacific. Punchbowl Cemetery. 12 oct 2015. photograph by Cory Lum/Civil Beat
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard embraces former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka after she took the oath of office as a major in the National Guard on Monday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

In 2007 she attended the Accelerated Officer Candidate School at Fort McClellan, Alabama, and was the first female Distinguished Honor Graduate in the 50-year history of the Academy.

After being deployed to the Middle East for a second time in 2008, she returned to Hawaii to complete a degree in international business from Hawaii Pacific University. In 2010, she was elected to the Honolulu City Council, and in 2012, she was elected to Congress.

Last year, Gabbard was among Guard members deployed to the Big Island to support Hawaii County’s emergency response when volcanic lava from Kilauea threatened residents of Pahoa in the Puna District. 

“Standing here today amongst veterans at the Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery, I’m again reminded of what aloha truly means,” Gabbard said in addressing the onlookers Monday. “Ultimately, aloha means respect, love, and caring. Some people think love and caring means weakness, but I assure you that the exact opposite is true. The truth is, nothing is as strong as love. It was their love for liberty and freedom that gave our country’s founders the courage and strength to fight for independence.”

“Punchbowl Cemetery is sacred,” Gabbard said. “It exudes the aloha of those who have given their lives for America.

Senator Mike Gabbard and right, Abraham Williams place major rank on daughter/wife Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard during ceremonies promoting Gabbard to a Major at the National Cemetery of the Pacific. Punchbowl Cemetery. 12 oct 2015. photograph by Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Tulsi Gabbard gets her major’s bars from her father, state Sen. Mike Gabbard, left, and her husband, Abraham Williams. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

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